Welcome Home – My outlook on Jamaica as a British Jamaican - PART 2 // Identity and Culture

Part 2 – Identity and Culture

Hopefully, you have read part 1 of my blog series ‘Welcome Home’. In part 2, I talk more about celebrating identity, my cross-cultural identity as a Black British and how it’s perceived overseas. Read part 1 first then continue on to part 2.

Identity clash – who am I ? 

Devon House

Devon House

I have never watched so much television. In Jamaica, I found that a lot of advertisements fed viewers with useful information about education, raising healthy families, career growth and an overall refreshingly positive representation of black people. There’s even a positive African-centered programme on national television; a drama series called African Voices. I was pleasantly overwhelmed by all that rich melanin on TV (well, obviously, since the vast majority of Jamaicans are of African descent). In the UK, representation is poor and often degrading, with subliminal attempts to suppress and divide black people. I am not exaggerating. I find it soul draining, offensive and a smart way to indoctrinate an entire race of people. I didn’t feel that way in Jamaica. I felt so reassured and grounded. Representation matters! Personally, I felt more confident and gained a greater sense of racial esteem while I was in Jamaica. A huge part of that was due to its healthy representation of dark-skinned people in the media. My pride in Jamaica has increased exponentially, and I am impressed with the standards of  national pride, African appreciation and self-awareness witnessed throughout the island. 

Is Jamaica safe?

When I first arrived in Jamaica, my family encouraged me to make a steady start and to take my time and settle in. Real talk...I felt I was on lock down living with family, not being able to travel places alone for the first few weeks or take cultural excursions on my own. To be honest, I felt somewhat undermined (LOL). Those who know me know how much I LOVE to travel. I will get up and go anywhere my spirit guides me. I love culture, sightseeing and socialising. So for me, taking a trip to the museum or to the local town to familiarise myself with the surroundings is a norm when visiting foreign countries. I find it exciting, educating and amusing. But, in JA, I was constantly reminded to be careful and wary of where I am going and not to talk to strangers. 

I was basically being told that JA is unsafe. That made me feel uncomfortable and, at times, held me back from going where I wanted to go. Is Jamaica unsafe? In my opinion.. Jamaica is no better or worse than any other country, in regards to safety, security and crime. I honestly felt safe. I am aware of the crime in certain inner city communities. My advice would be to not visit neighborhoods you have no business visiting. Unless you have relatives and or friends to visit. Y’hear! 

Jamaica’s Independence Day 2019

Jamaica’s Independence Day 2019

One thing I must say is don’t attach yourself onto the negative comments or assumptions about Jamaica’s crime rate. At first I personally felt so worried about traveling alone in Jamaica because of the comments. But since arriving back to the UK, I have reflected on my own previous perceptions of Jamaica. Still today (in the UK) I hear many ignorant comments about the island. By all means detach yourself, travel to Jamaica and think for yourself. Trust me Jamaica is filled with beauty! I find the locals accommodating, friendly and in my experience look out for you! 

I appreciate the love, guidance and protection of my family. I know this safety concern isn’t just my personal experience (or for Jamaicans from the diaspora staying with family in JA), but for many people who want to travel to Jamaica; Kingston in particular. Staying with family has provided me a better insight into the way of life, circumstances, and living standards in Jamaica. I also picked up some common Jamaican phrases and Patois. I loved it. Strangely, this reminded me of how British I am and how much I dislike being called English or being told, ‘she’s not Jamaican’. At times, this conundrum makes me feel confused and alone. If not English or Jamaican, who the hell am I then? In England, I certainly don’t identify as English. Just Black British. But that identity also includes every other person of African/Caribbean/South American descent who (live in the UK) may not necessarily be Jamaican. So yeah, my trip to Jamaica got me questioning my identity and cultural habits, having realised that I am not so Jamaican or ‘English’ after all.

Time to hit di road 

Grand Gala - Jamaica’s Independence Day celebration

Grand Gala - Jamaica’s Independence Day celebration

My aunt took me to the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston. It took me a few travel trips to familiarise myself with the transportation routes to and from the city. I find the transportation quick and always on standby. However, I am yet to come across more accessible transportation ideal for the disabled. We also visited my aunt’s former home in Patrick City and picked ackee and mangos from the tree on her old yaad. (Warning: do not pick ackee from someone else’s tree. At least ask for permission). We visited Emancipation Park together on a quiet Sunday. Sunday is an ideal day to visit the park, as well as Hope Gardens and Devon House. Devon House has the BEST ice cream. Woiii it sweet mi. I tried the Guava flavour. I went back at least a dozen times, secretly for the ice cream and overall calm atmosphere, but also to take a tour of the historic great house itself. On my birthday I celebrated it in style. I went to Edna Manley Performing Arts College and tried out their adult summer camp programme. PLUS I joined their field trip to a dance called Uptown Mondays! Yes, I partied hard in JA. But first can I say the arts college has a field trip to a dancehall party! I find that so fascinating. I felt like a child jumping up and down in excitement. Uptown Mondays did not fail me. That is a whole other story to tell but the vibes were on point and everyone came out to have a good time and DANCE! The dance crews were vibrant, wild even and they showcased a whole new level of choreography. I felt like a beginner (I styled it out though). 

I kicked off my newest project while I was in Jamaica. It’s called INSiGHTZ - a new podcast series vocalising dance. I interviewed a diverse range of dance artists about their personal stories and journeys in dance…and more. I fulfilled so much and crammed in as much activity to enhance my personal and professional growth as I could. I have sooo much more to share. Stay posted for more blogs and vlog both here and on social. Soon come. 

Dance workshop with I.DANCE  Me, Michelle and Patrick

Dance workshop with I.DANCE

Me, Michelle and Patrick

Blog by: Tamar Dixon 

P.S. Big thank you to Good News Jamaica for offering me a platform to share my experiences as a British-Jamaican in Jamaica. Thank you to Manifesto Jamaica, Brouhaha International and European Commission programme for capacity building in the field of youth and festivals as a platform for community development; for this opportunity and lifelong learning experience. Big up unnu self.